MOTORSPORT – THE PERFORMANCE PYRAMID OF FORMULA 1 MOTOR RACING
As a performance coach in motorsport, you’re tasked with a diverse range of responsibilities on and off the track, from programming the physical abilities linked to racing a Formula car (e.g., strength, mobility and conditioning) to designing and overseeing trackside-based strategies to optimise a driver’s performance in competition. This includes hydration, nutrition, heat management, sleep and jet lag planning, and mental performance, to name a few.
As the individual driver coach, you are for all intents and purposes the coach and facilitator of everything outside of the car. You play an integral role as coach, confidant and conduit between the driver and race team/car trackside. Thus, how you plan your time, and what you choose to invest your energy into for a performance gain doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should be purposeful, with a clear understanding of how you intend to achieve performance-related objectives.
“To impact performance, you must first understand the rules of the game”
Philosophically, how you build a performance plan starts with a few primary questions –
What are the capabilities and skills a driver needs in order to:
- Win a GP race and a championship
- Become/stay fit and injury-free
- Handle the rigours of competition, training and travel across an 11 month season?
Organising training and competition components into a logical framework provides the coach and driver with a clear appreciation of what matters, and which parts of the performance puzzle offer the most value to competition.
By design, the general preparation stage consists largely of athletic training, developing the correct biomechanics, and laying a platform of conditioning. Overall, the objective is to install and develop holistic physical qualities such as, movement literacy, global strength, and aerobic capacity, which will be built on in later stages.
At the competition preparation stage, training is tailored toward the specific physical qualities we require for competitive racing – neck strength (peak force and fatigue resistance), braking strength (max strength and rate of force development), maximal aerobic fitness (VO2max).
The race preparation stage is where time and resources are spent refining the abilities closest linked to sporting actions and skill. Unsurprisingly, this stage is less about developing a breadth of physical abilities, with more focus given peaking/tapering, with more time transferred to neuro-cognitive skills, such as reaction time, vestibular training and learning to cope/ thrive under pressure.
The assumption given to a framework like this implies that time is given to general preparation training only in the pre-season, with competition preparation targeted in and around races alone… this simply isn’t the case in practice. All stages of preparation are in play, at all times. Think of the pyramid as a scale, with time given to maintain and develop multiple qualities throughout the year to achieve retention and optimal preparedness.
Culturally, the relationship between performance/S&C training and Formula motorsport is still a young one. At the present time, there’s a belief that physical training carries little to no value for the elite driver in-season. Some drivers place minimum value on high quality strength training between races, with the attitude “driving a car is all the training I need”.
With a void of scientific evidence explaining sport demands, to this date we’re largely influenced by subjective driver feedback and staged training/testing simulations to measure the imposed sport stressors. However, what we do know is drivers that lack sufficient neck strength during pre-season testing struggle to control/maintain head position during repeated days of high-volume testing (driving). In a sport where 80% of the information you receive is dependent on vision, being able to regulate head position is vital. With intermittent breaks of 3-4 weeks and more between driving it’s plausible to suggest regular strength training is an important mediator in physical performance.
** Next month, I’ll get into ‘how to coach the skill-based athlete’.
EXERCISE OF THE MONTH
Half kneeling banded Y-Raise. The inherent task of hours seated while turning a steering wheel and resisting high speed braking G forces often creates a bias in the anterior musculature of the chest and shoulders. As a result, motor racing athletes commonly present with a posture of rounded shoulders, winging scapulae, and a forward head position. While the drivers racing seat tends to promote this position, neck, shoulder and spine health doesn’t survive long here.
In addition to t-spine and rib-cage mobility, teaching the scapulae to upwardly rotate and coordinate in-relation to the shoulder joint is useful to improve shoulder mobility, stability and often reduce resting tone (activity) in the upper-trapezius, neck and latissimus muscle groups.
Why I like the half kneeling version – The kneeling 90/90 allows us to generate force into the ground, which in turn loads the glutes and hips, increases activation of the anterior core, in combination limits lumbar extension (a common fault during the lifting portion), and allows the lifter to focus on scooping the scapulae around and up the back of the ribs to promote a true overhead position.
When done well, you should feel lower/mid traps and serratus anterior throughout. When done incorrectly, you’ll feel lower-back, upper traps and anterior shoulders screaming at you.
BOOKS & PODCASTS
“Shoe Dog” Phil Knight
A colleague recommended I read this book back in 2015, I thought interesting, but why would I want to read memoirs of a shoe company, I doubt I’ll benefit much – how naive I was! It’s a long read but a fascinating story which illustrates the challenging and turbulent journey of entrepreneurship. Building the world’s largest shoe and clothing brand, worth 33million USD today. The story of Nike’s co-founder Phil Knight is a modest, humbling and fascinating journey from home start-up to multinational business giant. Perhaps the biggest take home for me throughout was the tireless trust and belief Knight has for hiring and standing by the contribution and character of ‘good people’. Be it employees or athlete ambassadors, the persistence in people is one that wins above all else. A hugely inspiring story.
“Zero To One” Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel, a billionaire entrepreneur, co-founder of PayPal, venture capitalist, political activist and author, offers views on highly innovative thinking for start-up business and ideologies around growth. Inviting the reader to consider many contrarian questions, such as “what valuable company is nobody building?”
Thiel prescribes regardless of industry, your road-map to success as a business hinges upon 1. Understanding your audience, 2. Creating for your audience, and 3. Working to build rapport with your audience.
Rules of business –
Recognise the future is fundamentally indefinite – case in point > 1990’s bricks to clicks.
- Make incremental advances, grand visions should not be indulged. Small steps are safe path forwards.
- Stay lean and flexible – you should not know what your business will do, planning is inflexible, iterate, ignostic experimentation.
- Improve on the competition is to start with an existing customer. Build company by improving on recognisable products.
- Focus on product, not sales, if your product relies on marketing your product is not good enough. Technology is primarily about product development not distribution. The only sustainable growth is viral growth.
What awaits you is an exercise in thinking.
Triggered by the release of ‘How to win at career decision making – The family, fulfilment and finance model’ for coaches, the impressive Josh Fletcher of Career Blueprint and I were invited to share our experiences of battling through a dogged strength and conditioning industry. And how we’ve come out the other side; a little greyer, wiser and armed to the teeth with lessons which have enabled us to create a future based around financial freedom, health and passion – and still retain our love for working in this industry!
In need of some help in your own career? Click on this link to pick up your copy of the FFF model!
Science for Sport: Listen here!
Specifically you will learn:
- How to prepare for career transitions
- How organisations can help employees
- How to improve your health, wealth and wellness
- How to align your passion with your pocket (£)
Football Fitness Federation: Click here to listen!
The sad realities of the coaching industry is at some stage you will be faced with –
❌ Unemployment/ sacking
❌ Underpaid & sometimes feel undervalued
Having a vision alone is not enough.
In this episode we discuss everything from career challenges, to solutions we’ve found that have helped us along the way.
Ben has built a truly great platform at FFF for coach education. I hope you find the conversation useful, we’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading.